Through Her Heart by Deborah Camp
Through Her Heart
by Deborah Camp
Through Her Heart
(#6 The Mind’s Eye series)
By Deborah Camp
Love and hate both come in all sizes and guises. Mistaking one for the other could get you killed.
The beep, beep, beep startled Levi Wolfe from his contemplation of the knife-pleats in his charcoal slacks. He pressed a button on the side of his watch and shut off the unnecessary notification. He was already at his five-thirty appointment. He glanced at the two other people in Dr. Althea McClain’s waiting area. The young receptionist – what was her name? Betsy? Britney? – smiled at him through the pane of glass that separated her from the psychiatrist’s patients. The other person, a dark-haired boy sitting near the window, stared up at a jet’s white trail against the blue sky.
What’s he doing here? Levi wondered for about the fifth time since he’d arrived at the office twenty minutes ago. The child glanced at him, then away. Probably came with whoever was in session with Althea. The doctor was usually prompt, so she should be wrapping it up and motioning for Levi to enter her inner sanctum. She’d called him that morning and changed his appointment time from noon to five-thirty because of a scheduling conflict.
He crossed his legs and drummed his fingers on the chair arms, then decided to text his wife. Sliding his phone from his inner jacket pocket, he smiled at Trudy’s face staring at him from the screen. He’d taken the photo a couple of weeks ago at a charity event. She’d worn the diamond and emerald earrings he’d given her that evening and they’d flashed in the light from overhead chandeliers. Her dark red hair was swept across her forehead in spiky bangs, and her eyes – those bewitching green eyes – glinted with a potent mixture of love and lust. He typed out a quick message.
Waiting for the doc to see me. You home?
Her response came within a minute.
Just got home. Been at the police station most of the day. They tracked down the pervert. He’s in custody.
Yes! He smiled and pounded his knee with his fist in a moment of satisfaction. He spared a glance at the serious-faced boy, who looked quickly away.
Trudy had been working with the police for the past two weeks to track a man named Vic, who had molested at least four boys and murdered two others. She’d been connecting psychically with the monster, experiencing his stalking and pouncing on victims who had ranged from four to eight years old.
Great news, babe! How’d it go down? He looked up from the phone to find the boy staring at him with a furrowed brow. His phone vibrated and he read the next text from Trudy.
I’ll fill you in over dinner. Short answer is I was “with him” at Chastain Playground. Officers caught him as he grabbed a six-year-old boy.
Levi shut his eyes as the horror of what might have been cut through him. Jesus. There were so many predators out there. Made him wonder why Trudy was so determined for them to bring another innocent into the world. He shook off the desolate feelings and concentrated on answering her.
Don’t hold dinner for me, if you’re hungry. Dr. McClain seems to be running late.
From his peripheral vision, he noted that the boy was still staring at him. He was the age “Vic the pervert” had been targeting, Levi realized with an inner shudder. His black and gray tennis shoes swung back and forth, several inches from the carpet. He wore black cargo shorts and a red t-shirt with Wolverine on the front, teeth and steel claws bared.
Levi’s phone trembled in his palm again.
Wes has whipped up lasagna and Italian bread sticks. I’ll wait for you, hot stuff.
Shaking his head, he pocketed the phone and met the child’s steady gaze. He had eyes the color of the piece of sky Levi could see out the window. He didn’t smile. Just stared, sometimes with his brows drawn together, or like now, with a question lurking in his expression.
The boy broke the staring standoff, looking toward the receptionist. Seconds ticked by before the phone buzzed. The receptionist answered it. The boy’s brows lifted and, with a sigh, he returned to his view outside the window.
Levi’s sixth sense quivered like a plucked string. That was interesting. Nah. He was probably reading more into it, he told himself. Still . . . the kid did seem to be waiting for something to happen before the phone had rung. He fiddled with his mobile, calling up the weather, checking the time again, texting Darla, his assistant, to schedule a meeting with his VP of restoration architecture for tomorrow afternoon. Wolfe Enterprises, Inc. had nearly doubled in size during the past three years. A couple of years ago, he’d added the restoration of heritage buildings to his re-fab construction business and it had taken off like a California wildfire. His business had been centered in the Atlanta area the first few years, but the restoration arm had expanded their horizon to seven other states and a couple of Canadian provinces.
He noticed that the boy had shifted in his chair and was staring at the office door. Levi followed his gaze and waited with him. He’d counted to eleven when the office door opened and a postal express worker came in and handed a package to the receptionist. The boy gave a little smile, heaved a sigh, and stared out the window again.
That kid is psychic!
Levi straightened, his interest in the boy seizing him. Did he know that he had a special gift or did he think everyone could sense when the phone was going to ring or someone was walking up to the door? Could he receive thought transmissions, too? The questions crowded into his mind, demanding answers.
Closing his eyes, Levi concentrated. He wished he knew the boy’s name because it would make this so much easier. Clearing his mind, he pictured a bow and arrow. Deliberately and slowly, he shot the arrow at the boy. When he opened his eyes, the kid was staring at him, his lips parted in shock and confusion. Levi had seen that look many times when he’d given people “brain pokes” as Trudy had dubbed them. Levi winked at the child.
Did you feel that?
No thoughts came back at him, but he saw alarm and a sliver of fear zip through his big, blue eyes.
Levi smiled, wanting to put him at ease. “My name is Levi Wolfe. What’s yours?”
The boy swallowed, glanced at the receptionist, and then answered, “Stuart. Atticus. McFarland.”
The pauses between each name widened Levi’s grin. “That’s quite a handsome handle you have there, Stuart Atticus McFarland. What do your friends at school call you?”
He had to think about it a few seconds before he answered, “Stewie, mostly. Sometimes Stu. But Ms. Williams and Ms. Payne call me Stuart.”
“I see. And are they your teachers?”
“Two of them.”
“Where do you go to school?”
He wasn’t surprised when the boy named one of the better private schools in the area. He was obviously bright, and his clothes, while casual, were expensive and looked brand new. Even his tennis shoes were Nike’s that probably cost two or three hundred dollars. Stuart’s gaze shifted to the door behind Levi and that expectant expression covered his face again.
Levi swiveled around in the chair when he heard the inner office door behind him open. A middle-aged woman stepped out, smiled at him, and then held her hand out to Dr. McClain. The kid’s mother, Levi surmised.
“Thank you, doctor. I’ll see you next week.”
“Very good, Gayle. Let Britney make your appointment.” Dr. McClain looked at Levi and then past him to the boy. “You hang tight for a bit longer, Stuart. Would you like a soft drink?”
Stuart shook his head and sat further back in the chair.
“Okay. Let Britney know if you want anything.” She tipped her head toward the smiling receptionist. “Levi? Please, come in.”
Looking from the woman making another appointment and back to the boy, Levi frowned as he stood, buttoned his suit jacket, and followed the psychiatrist into her comfortable office. He took his usual seat on the three-cushioned couch while Althea settled in a wing-backed chair across from him.
“The kid out there? Is he waiting for someone or is he a patient?”
“He’s a new patient.”
“Oh. He’s young.”
“Yes. He’s seven.”
“Stuart Atticus McFarland.”
Althea looked a bit surprise. “You’ve been talking to him.”
He unbuttoned his jacket to get more comfortable and rested his ankle on his opposite knee. “Did you know that he’s psychic?”
Althea beamed and a little laugh puffed past her mauve-colored lips. “I suspected and was hoping you would confirm it.” She set aside her sleek notepad and angled closer to him. “I’m not supposed to put much stock in such things, as you know.”
“I also know that you believe me to be psychic.”
Her cinnamon-colored eyes warmed. “I do. Because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you, I’ve had my mind opened about such things. To be honest, that’s why I changed your appointment. I wanted you to observe Stuart to see if you detected that he could be clairvoyant.”
“Hold on.” He held up one hand, confused by her ploy. “Why didn’t you just tell me that?”
“Because I didn’t want to give you any preconceived ideas. Frankly, as a psychiatrist, I was also interested in seeing if you could identify your own kind.”
He arched a derisive brow. “Did I pass the test, doc?”
Althea swept her hand in a graceful arc. “No test. Just an experiment.” She laced her fingers over her knee and regarded him with interest. “Why do you think he’s psychic?”
“He could tell the phone was going to ring before it did and he knew that someone was approaching the door.” The boy’s serious expression flashed in his mind again. “He’s in therapy because of this?”
“No.” Her professional demeanor returned, straightening her shoulders and spine. “I can tell you some about his situation because it’s been widely publicized in the local media. He’s here because he experienced a trauma. His parents were murdered nearly two months ago.”
His breath hitched. “He witnessed it?”
“No, or that’s the general consensus. He hid and says he didn’t see anything. He might have heard things.” She released a sigh of frustration. “The police psychiatrist transferred him to me because he feels that the child might know more than he’s telling. Have you met Dr. Mabry?”
“Yes. I’ve run into him here and there.” He’d spoken a few times with the balding, pudgy police psychiatrist. Always dressed in jeans and loose t-shirts, he exuded cheerfulness and kindness. “Does he think the boy has ESP?”
“Probably not.” She shrugged. “But he does believe that Stuart might have glimpsed the assailant or assailants. I don’t think the police are certain about how many broke into the house. I’ve only had two sessions with Stuart, but I also noticed that he would look toward the door and then I’d hear the phone buzz out there. Last week when we were in session, he interrupted me and said, ‘Ambulance.’ A few moments later, while I was asking him what he meant by that, an ambulance came screaming down the street.” She nodded to the slightly opened French doors that gave access to a small atrium and koi pond. “I thought maybe he had keen hearing.” A look of concern covered her face for a few moments before she shook her head and focused on Levi again. “He’s very bright and very serious.”
“Serious because of what he’s been through, probably,” Levi noted.
“Sure, but I also think he’s been raised as a little adult. His father was fifty-eight when Stuart was born and his mother was forty-two. No brothers or sisters, full or half or step.”
“Is he living with relatives now?”
“No, he’s at the children’s shelter until a foster home can be located for him.”
“Really? His grandparents couldn’t—.”
“They’re dead, except for one grandmother, who is in her eighties and in no condition to raise a child.” Althea shrugged. “That’s what happens sometimes to children from late-in-life parents. His mother was an only child. She was adopted as a baby by a middle-aged couple. His father has an older brother, who is seventy-three and enjoys his grandchildren but doesn’t want another child to raise.”
“Poor kid.” Levi shrugged. “But he’s smart and cute. He’ll get adopted.”
“Hopefully, yes.” Althea settled back in the chair again and crossed her long, caramel-colored legs in that elegant way of hers. “Here’s my proposition, Levi. I think you should assist me with Stuart.”
He stared at her for a few moments, thinking she might be kidding around. “I don’t . . . I’m not equipped. You know that. I only have a master’s degree in psychology.”
“I know, but you’re psychic and you have insight to this child that I can never have. Trudy could also be helpful. You could both talk to him about being psychic. What it means, how to cope with it, and how others might react to it.” Her gaze was steady and certain. “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if someone like you or Trudy had entered your life when you were seven?”
He released a scornful chuckle. “Hell, if that had happened, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
She chuckled with him. “Possibly not, but . . .”
He nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. I’d still be sitting here, but not quite as fucked up.”
Amusement bled from her expression and her psychiatrist face, watchful and wise, emerged. “Now, Levi, think of the progress we’ve made together. When will you stop degrading yourself? When?” She leaned forward a bit, latching onto his gaze more tightly. “Is self-loathing so ingrained in you that you actually enjoy it?”
“No.” He frowned, irritation bubbling in him. “No,” he said, this time more forcibly.
“Then, for goodness sake, get over it.” Her tone was sharp, needling him. “It’s not a good look anymore, Levi. If it ever was. You’re confident in all things except for your own self-worth. Think of it this way, would a woman like Trudy Tucker have married a degenerate? Would she?”
He winced, his irritation subsiding. “No.”
“Okay.” She released a huffing breath. “Back to Stuart. Will you talk to Trudy about taking Stuart under your wings? It will ease his mind if he understands what’s going on inside it. He’s getting to the age of awareness.”
“Yes. Six or seven is when you usually look outside yourself and your little world. You start noticing the differences. He might have known for a year or more that something strange is going on inside of him.”
“Yes, and from what you and Trudy have told me, it can be terrifying. He’s already experienced terror. I would like to alleviate some of it for him. You and Trudy can help with that.”
“There’s more to this, though. Right?” He knew her, knew how she worked, and that she wanted something else.
“Well, yes.” She settled back in the chair and reached for her notebook. The overhead lights picked out glistening curls in her Afro. “You might help open his mind more and he might be able to recall things about that night. I’m not going to divulge what we’ve talked about in my sessions with him.” She flicked a glance at him.
“I wouldn’t expect you to,”
“However, I can tell you that very little progress has been made. Actually, he reminds me of you when we first met. He appears to be personable, well-spoken, and candid. But he’s a closed book. He’s all flashy leather binding, gold-leaf lettering, and intriguing title. But he won’t let you inside to read his story.”
A smirk edged up one corner of Levi’s lips as the description rang true. “Ah, the bad, old days,” he murmured. Prior to Dr. McClain and Trudy, he’d believed that he could contain and control his roiling feelings of abandonment, anger, and vengeance, and that no one suspected how damaged and lonely he was inside.
“You’ll talk to Trudy about my proposal?”
“Yes, but we’re really busy right now, Althea.”
“You always are.” A little scowl marred her regal features. “If you don’t want to help me with this, just say so.”
He smiled at her. This woman who had seen all his ugliness, embraced it and him, and guided him to a better, safer place where he could confront his demons and slay them, one by one. Then he thought of the boy – alone, living with strangers now, and dealing with abilities that probably baffled and scared him. “Of course, I’ll help, Dr. McClain. Let me talk to Trudy and I’ll get back to you before the end of the week.”
Althea’s face brightened. “I knew I could count on you. You and Trudy.” She switched on her notebook and the screen cast a silvery glow across her face. “Let’s discuss you now. How have things been for you the past couple of weeks? You mentioned last time that you thought your father might have hired someone again to hack into your business and personal accounts. Anything else to report on that?”
He shifted gears in his mind. “I think it was Chason Bolt poking around.”
“Oh, the ‘psychic to the stars.’ The one you feel is trying to one-up you all the time.”
“That’s him. There was a flurry of activity and then nothing.” He recalled his technical team’s reports. “All signs pointed to Bolt. He didn’t find anything, so he gave up. There’s nothing much to dig up about me. I’m an open book.” He grinned at her glare of chastisement. “Well, I am now.”
“Uh-huh. Show me a man or woman with no secrets and I’ll show you an android.”
He chuckled at her analogy. “Things have been rocking along pretty well. I did have a bad dream a couple of nights ago. Nothing major like the ones I’m used to. This one had to do with Trudy. In it, I arrived home from work and she was frantic. She said she had lost our baby and she’d torn up the place looking for it. I tried to calm her, telling her that we didn’t have a baby and that it was okay. She screamed at me and tried to hit me, slap me. I woke up then, my heart frozen in my chest.” He pressed his fist there, recalling the chilling feeling. “It was painful. She was so distraught. So hysterical.”
“How long has it been since she went off birth control?”
“Almost four months.”
“She’s concerned that she won’t get pregnant?”
He nodded. “No matter what I say, she worries that it won’t happen for us. Then she talks about beginning adoption procedures. But I think that’s premature. Yesterday she said that we should both be tested to be sure we’re fertile.”
“I’d wait longer before taking that step, too. Four months isn’t all that long. Everyone is different. Some women get pregnant on their next cycle and some women’s bodies take a year or more before they conceive. There’s no set timetable. Does her anxiety make you anxious, too?”
“Sometimes.” He rolled his shoulders against the tightening of muscles there. “I’m not as enthusiastic about parenthood as she is. It’s a huge responsibility.” He tugged at the Windsor knot in his tie. “How can I know if I’m ready for it? I might be a complete failure at fathering.” He scowled at Althea’s gently chiding smile. “Well, it’s certainly possible! I have no good reference points when it comes to parenting.”
“Yes, you do. You haven’t lived in a cave, Levi. You’ve been exposed to people with children. You’ve seen them interact with their offspring. You’ve watched movies and television shows about families. You’ve read about good and bad parents. You know as much about it, if not more, than most childless people.”
“But I don’t know if I have what it takes. The patience, the depth of feeling.”
“No one knows for sure until they are in the situation. And those skills come with trial and error and over time. Every child is different, so there are no set rules or behavior patterns.” Her smile doubled. “We all have to wing it. Just jump from the nest and trust that we’ll figure out how to fly.”
He ran a hand down his face. “Hell. That makes me break out in a cold sweat. To think that I could screw up a life. That I could be the reason another person needs to seek out a psychiatrist.”
“Or that you could be the reason a person grows up to be happy and well-adjusted.” She arched a brow. “Mr. Sunshine.”
He chuckled at her use of the facetious nickname he’d been given by a few people who worked for him. “Yeah, yeah. I get it.”
“Good.” She typed something in the notebook. “So, let’s talk about how you felt when you came back home at age seventeen. Your mother was dying from cancer. Was she bedridden by then? Tell me about seeing her again after all those years . . .”
Coming soon! Through Her Heart on Amazon